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EXIT 3 onramp southbound. I-95/I-495; To Route 210, Forest Heights & Fort Washington, Maryland
Ok Road Team, At-tention!
Listen up, now. Here we go. Road Test upcoming so pay attention to the Fast Facts.
The winner of this gets $5 from the Driver. Woahh, Driver. Eyes on the road!
Now for the Fast Facts: The first African American Secret Service Agent, Charles LeRoy Gittens hails from nearby Fort Washington off the upcoming Exit. His father was a contractor who had immigrated to the United States from Barbados. Back in 1928, Gittens was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A big family, Little Charley was one of seven children.
Charles Gittens left high school before graduation in order to enlist in the Army. His 4 brothers had all served in the military. Much later Gittens' daughter recalled: Little Charlie, as he was known, was determined to join the service. Said she: “He was anxious to be a man because they called him Little Charlie. He wanted to be with the big guys."
In the Army, he studied and received his high school degree. Then the Big Guy was promoted to lieutenant in the Army and was stationed in Japan during the Korean War.
Following the end of the Korean war, Gittens earned a degree from North Carolina Central University. In fact, he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in both English and Spanish. As a result, he was bilingual. After a year stint as a teacher, Gittens was recruited into the United States Secret Service. In 1956, he was sworn in, thus becoming the very first African American Secret Service Agent.
Secret Service agents are very visible yet very discreet. They are the people who surround the President at every public appearance and never smile. Typically they may have some large clothing which hides sub machine guns.
They are taught to throw their body in the line of fire of a pointed gun, or jam their hand between the hammer and the firing pin of a pistol. Fun stuff. In effect their lives do not matter. Talk about the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
No doubt because of Charles Giddens’ language skills, he served in several high positions including guarding New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller during his 1969 trip to Latin America. Maybe more impressively, Agent Gittens also served in the guard detail for Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. While he was not present at Kennedy's assassination he was just feet from Kennedy the night Marylin Monroe famously sang Happy Birthday to the President.
Gittens told friends he never felt discrimination from other agents. However, he still faced it on the job. While guarding President Lyndon Johnson on a trip to Dallas, he and other agents entered a restaurant. The waiters initially refused to serve him. According to a story in Ebony Magazine, said Glittens, “The other guys were a lot angrier than I was. But the manager came out and apologized profusely. And we eventually got served.”
A Book was written about his career entitled OUT FROM THE SHADOW by Maurice A. Butler.
In an interesting twist of one persecuted minority serving another persecuted class, Gittens later spent years leading investigations of Nazi War Criminals who were hiding in the United States.
Today there are many African American Secret Service Agents. So Charles Leroy Gittens may be considered the first such agent. Talk about being a Front Line Worker, right?
Agent Charles LeRoy Gittens died in 2011.
Ok Now for the Road Test. Here is the trivia question: what year was Gittens death?? You have three seconds. Three… and Two…. and One.
If you answered 2011, outstanding! You get $5 from the Driver.
Now Driver, don’t be a poor sport. You can buy yourself something too. Permission granted!
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